1. Why is GESI a main theme under the FSM 6 conference?
Gender, equality and social inclusion challenges in sanitation normally stem right from the lack of policies to address these issues. In instances where policies are available, they are very limited to just consultation but not meaningful involvement in designing and planning for sanitation services. Including GESI as a main theme in the FSM 6 conference will enable us to explore how weak or the lack of policies to guide designing and planning for sanitation services has an impact on gender, inequalities, and exclusion in service delivery.
Poor access to appropriate clean water and sanitation is not the root cause of gender-based violence, but it can increase women’s vulnerability to harassment and violence, including sexual violence. GESI being the main theme under FSM6 enables us to show evidence on how improved sanitation planning and programming reduces the individuals’ risk to gender-based violence and sanitation and make recommendations that lead to better GESI programming.
In addition, this inclusion gives us the opportunity of drawing from a global perspective and wide range of experiences on what has worked or not worked in reducing inequalities to those who have been excluded from sanitation services such as, women, children, people with disabilities, and the elderly. This exclusion may be based on a wide range of factors, including: social, economic, financial, or technological, and may be reinforced through societal norms or institutionalised mechanisms, and therefore, what better opportunity than FSM 6 to explore all forms of exclusion?
Though a critical component of reaching SDG 6.2 is improving access to and increasing the usage of comprehensively designed sanitation services by those who have been repeatedly excluded. Commonly, designs or programmes are decided by the implementers without an assessment of the social and demographic characteristics of the population of consumers who benefit from a sanitation service. Consequently, these designs are not sensitive to women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. For that matter, open defecation continues in such communities even with the availability of sanitation facilities. Additional focus is required on gender balance and representation. In many places, women and girls are not given enough opportunities to actively participate and contribute as equally important stakeholders, decision-makers, or even consumers. However, we are cognisant of the fact that there are organisations, governments, and societies out there that have managed to work their way out of the above problem. Therefore, including GESI as the main theme under FSM 6 offers the perfect opportunity to not only learn but recognise the efforts of such entities.
2. What do you see as some pros/cons of major conferences like FSM 6 going virtual?
- More people can attend the conference as it reduces the costs of participation.
- Availability of reference material at the click of a button.
- A large expanse of the virtual audience to access the materials.
- There is more time for posters/ materials to be viewed thus fostering a better appreciation of the subject matter.
- Participants miss out on physical networking.
- Participants may be easily distracted and only have intermittent learning experiences.
- The conference may attract fewer participants. If a participant’s motivation to participate included travel, then such a participant would opt-out.
- It may be very difficult to coordinate sessions virtually, sometimes.
3. What do you want WASH practitioners to know about the intersection of GESI and FSM/circular economy?
As the world talks and thinks circular economy, it is very important for all of us to remember that a circular economy is only possible if the planning, budgeting, implantation, monitoring, and evaluation of efforts are people-centered. Very commonly, designs or programmes are decided upon by the implementers without an assessment of the social and demographic characteristics of the population of consumers who benefit from a sanitation service. Consequently, these designs are not sensitive to women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. We all need to move away from looking at the communities we work with as beneficiaries but rather view them as partners that we meaningfully involve in all the stages that eventually yield to the circular economy.
New knowledge in some cases is indigenous knowledge that has for a long time been pushed to the side and is merely forgotten. So, meaningful inclusion will not only result in ownership (sustainability) of the realised circular economy but will in addition unlock the community’s hidden potential to realise a circular economy. When a circular economy is community/beneficiary centered, then locally-led adaptation actions to a circular economy become more sustainable.
A circular economy requires systems thinking. In a system, all components must work together to achieve the desired outcome and thus, GESI.
‘Cross-sectoral linkages and multisectoral commitments makes FINISH Mondial an eligible participant of Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) 6 conference’